One On One With Bryan McCabe
by Matthew Iaboni
-- Game Day Magazine
May 28, 2004
BRYAN McCABE always wanted to be a player in the National Hockey League and contribute to a winning organization. After stints with the Islanders, Canucks and Blackhawks, McCabe has finally found a permanent home with the Maple Leafs where expectations are high and the opportunity for success is within grasp.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Tell us about the Maple Leafs group hug that started during the streak last season. How did it start and it sure seems like you guys have lots of fun out there ...
McCABE: I don't know how it started. We just started winning some games and having some fun with it and it kind of went from there. We were on a little bit of a run and we had some fun with it and there's nothing wrong with that.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What stood out most for you about the team's record-setting 16 games with at least one point?
McCABE: It's kind of like we were not thinking about it. We were just playing and it just seems like we're were finding ways to win games. We didn't think too much about it and we were just kind of playing and it didn't really weighing on our minds so it was nice.
LEAFS GAME DAY: People talk about veteran leadership on this team ... but it might surprise some to know you're over the 700-game mark.
McCABE: Yeah I'm getting old (laughs). This was my ninth year but there's still a lot to learn. There's still a lot to learn and there are a lot of guys I can learn from in our room. We made some great acquisitions in the summer by adding guys like Joe Nieuwendyk and Kenny Klee who have been in the league a while. Joe's won some Stanley Cups so it's always great to have a guy like that in the locker room.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What does it mean for you to wear that 'A' on your jersey for this hockey club?
McCABE: It means a lot. It's always an honour to be seen as a leader on a team amongst the guys we have on this team. It's nice. I think players thrive on that and I just try to go out there and lead by example.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Let's find out a bit of your background. You were born in St. Catharines but grew up out west. When did you move out there, where did you grow up and when did you start to play hockey?
McCABE: I moved out to Calgary when I was about six months old. So I'm a westerner by nature. My parents put me on skates when I was about two and a half and I started playing on a team when I was five. Actually I played forward all my life until I was 15 years old and then switched to defence.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Did you follow the NHL and what was your favourite team and who were your favourite players?
McCABE: The Flames obviously because I grew up there. A highlight was in '89 when they won the Stanley Cup. A guy I looked up to would have been Lanny McDonald, playing for the Flames. I remember the year they won the cup he scored his 500th goal, 1,000th point and the big second goal in the deciding game for the cup. So that would be one of my highlights.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Did you dream of playing in the NHL and when did you really think you had a chance to fulfill that?
McCABE: It was a long journey but it's all I ever wanted to do since I was kid, since five. I always said I wanted to be an NHL player. When I went to junior and kind of knew I had an opportunity there and when you get drafted you see a light there but it's still a long way to go. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to come up through the Islander organization and make the team at an early age.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What led you to becoming a defenceman?
McCABE: Well, when I was 15 I was listed by Medicine Hat and I went to their camp when I was 14 and 15. When I was 15 they told me if I played 'D' I would make the team the next year when I was 16. Of course I wanted to play junior the next year, so I went back to bantam that year and switched back to 'D' for a season and I got lucky enough and adapted pretty quick to it and went right to junior the next year and never looked back.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What is the most rewarding aspect and biggest challenge about playing defence?
McCABE: You know it's a great opportunity every night to try to shut down the best players in the league. A big reward for a defenceman is getting a shutout or shutting down a line like Jaromir Jagr or something in a game. It never really shows up on a scoresheet but it's the things defenceman thrive on.
LEAFS GAME DAY: You had an outstanding junior career at Medicine Hat, Spokane and Brandon as well as for Canada world juniors in '94 and '95. What was your greatest junior highlight?
McCABE: Winning the world juniors for sure in '94 and '95. I got an opportunity to play a couple of times and was lucky enough to win two gold medals. Thus far in my career besides making it to the NHL those would be my career highlights.
LEAFS GAME DAY: You were selected 40th overall by the Islanders in the '93 draft. What do you remember about draft day?
McCABE: Getting drafted was just great. It was really a start to where I wanted to go. Going to my first camp was a real eye opener. I was kind of a lazy, cocky kid at the age of 18 and went to camp and kind of got a reality check and kind of learned what it took to be a pro. I went back and worked really hard, learned to eat right and started working out and two years later I got an opportunity to make the team.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What was it like for you to be named team captain at such a young age?
McCABE: It was great. It was a honour. I think I took too much pressure on myself and at the age of 22 I think you put a lot more pressure on yourself and maybe I wasn't ready at the time but you know who's going to turn that down (laughs)? So it was an honour but it's something that I'd love to have the opportunity to do again and maybe do a little better job this time.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Were you surprised when you were traded to Vancouver?
McCABE: Yeah. Shocked would be the word. After getting named captain that season you kind of put thoughts in your head that you're going to be a lifer here and you know it was the most shocking day of my life. It was really tough on me. I never expected it. I created a lot of great friendships in New York. I met my wife there and to have to leave on such short notice was really hard on me but I think it was for the best.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Just a season and a bit later, you were traded to Chicago. Did you expect to be moved?
McCABE: That wasn't as shocking. I had some good talks with Brian Burke and Marc Crawford before the summer had started and they let me know that there could be an opportunity I might be traded so it was very respectful on there part to be honest and up front with me. They wanted to get those Sedin brothers and I just happened to be the guy they had to send the other way.
LEAFS GAME DAY: How did you enjoy your one season in Chicago?
McCABE: Chicago is a great city. I love it. It's a good city, clean, the people are nice, stuff like that, but Toronto is the best hockey Mecca in the world so you can't even compare it to any other place in the world.
LEAFS GAME DAY: When you were traded to Toronto in 2000, did you think you'd finally found your permanent home in the NHL?
McCABE: I was hoping. It's hard to further your career and improve as a player when you're moving around every other year. It took its toll on me with my confidence but hopefully I found a home here. It's my longest stint yet and hopefully it keeps going.
LEAFS GAME DAY: After all your junior success, it took six NHL seasons before you tasted playoff action. What do you remember about for first playoff experience in 2001?
McCABE: It was long awaited. It sure was a long road but that's what everyone plays for you don't want the summer to start in April it makes for a long, long summer. To come here and get an opportunity to make the playoffs and competes and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup every year is just a treat.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What's been your hockey highlight as a Maple Leaf?
McCABE: Probably our run two years ago there to the semis. It was a tough way to go out in overtime but it was a great experience factor to use for further playoff games.
LEAFS GAME DAY: What do you like to do to relax when you're away from the rink?
McCABE: I love movies, music and concerts. I'm a big movie fan and it's my night before a game ritual. My wife and I try and watch a movie, relax and just take it easy.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Whether it's visiting schools or hospitals, it seems you enjoy the Leafs community relations and meeting the fans ...
McCABE: Toronto is such a great place. We get a lot of fan support here and you have to give back to the community and if at all possible try and make school visits or Sick Kids Hospital or whatever is asked we try to do here.
LEAFS GAME DAY: Is there a final message you'd like to convey to Leafs fans who constantly show a passion for the blue and
McCABE: They're the best fans in the world -- bar none! We sell out every night and as a hockey player that is a dream come true to come to the rink and have the fans support you through thick and thin. They always do that here.